Playful Communication of Serious Research

RED - PCSR Final

In collaboration with Cole Orloff, Namira Abdulgani, and Kaini Zhou.

RED was the final exhibit of our semester long project for Playful Communication of Serious Research. The goal was to build an exhibit that could explain the work of a researcher at NYU in a playful and accessible way. We worked with Adam Alter, a researcher at NYU, who researches the effect of everyday things on us psychologically.


Over the course of the semester, we put together a pitch package of what we were interested in and why we wanted to build an exhibit around the topic, what our experiential goals were, and how we were going to build the exhibit. We started with a few core experiential goals: 

Immersion - Provide visitors with an immersive experience so they could saturate themselves in the colors and lights

Education - Educate the audience on how color has an impact on our decision making at a subconscious but powerful level.

Discovery - Increase the exhibition's engagement level by installing casual viewing elements based on the visitor's location and movement

From there we built wireframes and diagrams of what the wall would look like and the type of content we would include, iterating on the pitch over the course of the semester. 

Due to technical and feasibility constraints, we created a prototype booth that became known as RED

The Making Of

Our initial concept was a wall of colored lights with a frosted panel in front of it that would have details on it. As visitors proceeded down the hallway, they could choose to just enjoy the exhibit as an art installation or to learn about the effects of color on the human mind and body by moving closer to the wall. 

RED is a scaled down prototype of the wall, where we took over a booth and put up layers of red fabric and lighting to fill it with the color. We installed an iPad that displayed a cartoon body; visitors could tap on different parts of the body to watch animations that would teach them about the effects of red objects on us mentally and physically. Outside of the booth was engraved panels that explained the exhibit to the visitor.

Lessons Learned

  • Try once, but know when to defer to someone else's expertise - I suspected at the start that I would not be good at content creation... and that was very true. I took a first pass at it, but in the end it was better to hand that off to someone else. I have experience in it now, but I'll be focusing on technology and design in the future; maybe I'll try again with help down the line.
  • Manage the time carefully - We planned to do technical investigations in our project plan, but still ran out of time to try them. 
  • Scaling down is just as hard as scaling up at times - The booth turned out to be a great success in ways that surprised us. We had thought of a linear experience, but with the booths we were able to successfully immerse the visitor in color more effectively. The feedback we received was that another booth would have made the experience more complete rather than just a one off about the color red; this way, we could install it in multiple locations. 

Week of 03/23 Swipe - EnChroma and Valspar Color for the Colorblind (Display in Video)

EnChroma Company Site | Valspar #ColorForAll Campaign | Video Direct Link

EnChroma is a company that makes glasses to correct color blindness, and the video is a result of their partnering with Valspar Paint to document people seeing colors correctly for the first time. The video shows people trying on the glasses to see color. While the product is incredible, the inspiration comes in the display of the spectrum on the loom. The vibrancy of the threads makes the piece seem continuous at a distance, but the materials feels very inviting to touch so the viewer could reach out and feel like they're interacting with the color directly.

It's also a reminder of how important it is to consider colorblindness in building an experience, software and otherwise. We talked a lot about color at Allscripts as we built the product styleguide, but it always hits home more when you hear someone talk about their experience directly. The reactions the people had to being able to see the color definitely had an impact on my reaction to the video, and it's something that will stick with me the next time I have to decide on colors.  

Week 6 Swipe - Disney Magicband


What I love about the band is the attention to every single detail that could have possibly caused friction to the visit experience - never showing red, not having to carry cash in the park, eliminating lines and waiting for food. It's magical, which is a core Disney experience goal. The anecdote about the sprinting for Fast Passes to popular rides is one that really stood out because I remember waiting in line for rides at Disney World as a kid and rushing around to get there faster so we wouldn't have to wait; now having the guarantee to get to the ride and a schedule of suggestions is a beautiful solution.

Week 5 Swipe - Panorama of New York, Queens Museum

Article about the making of

I was out in Flushing with a friend to see the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) for homework for Cabinets of Wonder, and we stumbled onto the Queens Museum by accident. I was stunned by the sheer scale of the model as we walked around it. Even though the model looks dated (the panorama was made for the 1964 World Fair and there are some very old TV sets built into the display that really show how old it is), the scale of it - the boroughs, the buildings, even the flying planes to LaGuardia) - was breathtaking.

The panorama is surrounded by a walkway that is made of glass at certain points so you don't miss any part of it. The walkway starts at the second floor, so as you descended it felt like taking an aerial tour of the city (without the helicopter part). Even though you can't touch anything, you can get a detailed view of the (handmade!!) buildings or an overview of it. This exhibit is beautiful even though it's outdated.

Week 4 Swipe - 3D Printed Sustainable Snacks

Article Link | Video

I didn't know much about 3D printing until I came to ITP, but I never dreamed that we could 3D print living organisms to make... snacks. Edible Growth, which is the name of the project, aims to do so - it prints a pattern of seeds and organic matter that begin to grow after a few days. 

While I wonder about the flavor of these, the novelty and playfulness of creating your own 3D food patterns is interesting. However, it's being pitched as a healthy snacking alternative - in a world of fast food and a need for immediate gratification, a snack that needs time to grow and thus some kind of conscious planning would be a struggle. The creator says that the project is still about a decade away from being in consumers' homes due to a need for further technological development, but I would think they need to first solve the problem of A - getting 3D printing to be mainstream enough for this to catch on and B - solving the immediacy problem.

On the other hand, the 'what did I just read' factor was fun!